'Woman scorned' to spend 5 years behind bars for murder after SCA dismisses appeal on sentence

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The Supreme Court of Appeal
The Supreme Court of Appeal
Ben Bezuidenhout, GroundUp, Wikimedia, file
  • A Northern Cape mother lost a bid to have her five-year murder sentence overturned.
  • The woman killed her long-term lover in 2016 during an argument. 
  • The State argued her conduct was consistent with that of "a woman scorned".

A Northern Cape mother will have to serve a five-year sentence for killing her long-term partner and father of her two children, after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein dismissed her appeal of sentence.

Dawida Solomons said she acted in self-defence in February 2016, when she was assaulted by her partner, Barnwell Sebenja.

The two had been together for 15 years.

During her trial in the Northern Cape Regional Court sitting in Carnarvon, Solomons told the court about previous incidents of violence at the hands of her lover.

Sebenja was 34 at the time, and Solomons 47. Their children were 15 and 11.

READ | SCA dismisses child abuser's claim that his 36-year sentence is too harsh

She showed the court three facial injuries to her cheek, chin and forehead, caused by stab wounds, which she claimed were inflicted by her partner.  

She said she was hospitalised on each of these occasions, but added that she never opened a case against him.

Solomons did, however, obtain a domestic violence interdict against her partner in February 2015.  

According to the court documents, Sebenja would stay with Solomons for a few months, then leave to stay with his other partner for another few months.

The night before the incident, the two had been drinking, with Sebenja spending the night at Solomons' house.

During the trial, the State placed emphasis on the events of the day of the incident when the two had an argument, which led to Sebenja being killed.

The State argued Solomons' conduct was consistent with that of "a woman scorned".

In November 2008, the court convicted Solomons and sentenced her to eight years behind bars. It found that there were substantial and compelling circumstances to justify a lesser sentence.

However, the eight-year sentence was later overturned by the Northern Cape High Court, which imposed a five-year sentence.

The High Court found there was some evidence of abuse in the protection order obtained by Solomons, which could not be ignored.

However, it agreed with the regional court that the "absence of physical injuries sustained on her body that day militated against self-defence".  

But Solomons was not satisfied with the High Court decision.

She then approached the SCA, asking it for an appropriate sentence of correctional supervision with conditions.

She argued the High Court had misdirected itself by under-emphasising the domestic violence and abuse she had suffered.

Solomons asked the SCA to consider the "persistent threats" by her late partner to leave her for another woman, whenever she refused to comply with his demands, as a facet of emotional abuse.

Acting Judge Thina Siwendu dismissed the application.  

Siwendu said: 

I am satisfied that the High Court exercised its discretion appropriately. The sentence is not disproportionate, given the seriousness of the offence. Thus, there is no basis to interfere with the sentence imposed.

According to the SCA, the High Court had "ameliorated the sentence in light of the perpetual violence which had marred the relationship with the deceased".

The judge said Solomons had been on bail, pending the appeal, since 2018.

She dismissed the appeal.  

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